The next time you even think about skipping brushing your teeth or flossing, remember this. At this very moment, there are roughly 300 species of bacteria alive and thriving in your mouth. All told, there are billions of them, and many of them produce tooth decay. Your best weapons against that army of billions? That toothbrush and floss, and your daily oral hygiene habits at home.
Bacteria and your mouth
Bacteria in our mouth recycle what we eat and drink by consuming the sugars in our food. Bacteria especially like sugary foods and starches — contained in pasta, bread, and cereals, for example — that are easily converted to sugar. Many bacteria are essential to our health, but it’s the byproduct of their activity that causes problems for our teeth. When bacteria consume sugars, they produce a biofilm as a waste product. We know that biofilm as dental plaque.
Dental plaque produces acids that degrade tooth enamel which results in cavities. Bacteria in that plaque produce toxic substances that aggravate the gums, leaving them red, sensitive, and quick to bleed. Those bacteria also contribute to the development of gum disease — called gingivitis in its early form, and periodontitis in its more serious form. Advanced gum disease causes your gums to retract and recede from your teeth, which results in pockets that can fill with food debris and more of that bacteria leading to infection and accumulations of pus. At its worst, periodontitis destroys bone matter causing your teeth to get loose in your jaw and even fall out.
How to prevent tooth decay
The key to good oral health is to minimize the amount of food matter — especially sugary and starchy foods — lingering on your teeth in order to minimize the amount of plaque that accumulates on your teeth and gums. To the extent that plaque does accumulate, the objective is to remove it as quickly as possible before it can cause lasting damage.
There are three keys, in addition to annual professional teeth cleanings and twice yearly dental checkups, to maintaining good oral health: brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.
Brushing your teeth after every meal and sweetened drink — but no less frequently than twice a day — effectively removes food debris, sugary substances, and plaque from the surfaces of your teeth when done with a soft-bristled toothbrush and an antimicrobial toothbrush that contains fluoride.
Two keys to effectively brushing your teeth are to: brush all of the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of each tooth; and to brush your tongue.
Cleaning between every tooth every day using dental floss or interdental cleaners will remove food debris, sugary substances, and plaque that accumulates between your teeth and at your gum line where toothbrushes simply can’t reach. When done properly, flossing can protect both your teeth and your gums. To help protect your gums from gum disease, gently slide your dental floss into the small gap between your gum tissue and the surface of your tooth after snuggling the floss up against the tooth itself.
Brushing and flossing sometimes leaves random food matter in and around your mouth. You can increase the cleanliness of your mouth, teeth, and gums by rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash. A mouthwash that contains fluoride will also help with your battle to prevent tooth decay.
Waging consistent battle with bacteria at home through regular brushing and flossing is your best defence against tooth decay. Our dental hygienists in St. Albert are professionally trained to keep your teeth clean, and to teach you the best practices of oral hygiene. Combined with annual teeth cleanings, twice annual dental checkups, and dental treatment as recommended by your dentist, a commitment to daily oral hygiene will set you up for a lifetime of good oral health.
If you’re looking for a dentist to partner with you and your family for preventative and responsive care, treatment, and advice, get in touch with the staff at a dental clinic in St. Albert. We’d love to help you.